CONWAY — Selectmen will be asking the public about expanding the town's paid parking program from a couple of recreation sites to all of North Conway Village.
The board has set a hearing date of July 12 for the proposal.
Paid parking was started last year to stem record numbers at popular canoe put-ins at Smith Eastman Landing, Davis Park and First Bridge. Residents of Albany and Conway could get a free parking sticker from the town. Others had to pay. This year, residents had to pay $5 for the sticker. The sticker also lets people park at the Conway Lake parking lot where there is no pay option.
Now, selectmen are mulling the idea of making visitors pay to park in North Conway Village from Depot Street to River Road, including at Schouler Park and around Norcross Circle.
"Today's meeting was ... designed to at least get the conversation going as to this is a means of real revenue for the town," said incoming Town Manager John Eastman on Tuesday.
"You can do 8 a.m.-6 p.m., which is a 10-hour day," Eastman said. "If you do the math at $2 an hour, that's $20 per parking space. If you are packed ... at 400 spots, just by doing the math, that's one day, you can put some serious money together."
He said Bar Harbor, Maine, made nearly $1.5 million from Memorial Day to Columbus Day in 2019 and Bar Harbor is smaller than North Conway.
"In our town, we could do it year-round, because we have a lot of visitors year-round," said Eastman. "That's if you wanted to do that."
Eastman explained that the town could either use pay stations that accept credit cards and print out parking passes to put on the dashboard or put up signs that direct visitors to download an app and people can pay that way. In total, 350-400 parking spaces could be made paid parking.
The town would need 30 pay stations that would cost about $300,000. A pay by app company would take a cut from each parked vehicle and the town would only have to pay $3,500 up front for signs. People without smartphones could call a number to pay.
Portsmouth and Keene use a combination of pay stations and pay by app. Eastman said Portsmouth is getting rid of its coin-operated meters.
Selectman John Colbath called for having a public hearing on paid parking "so that the business community could respond."
He said some business people like the idea because it would prevent people from parking all day, while others don't like it.
Mount Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Michelle Cruz said she is aware selectmen are looking into this and added that most tourist areas charge for parking.
Former planning board member Charlene Browne wondered if the the town would end up making money at the shopkeepers' expense. She also asked why don't they just have a "meter maid" chalk the tires.
Town Manager Tom Holmes, who is retiring this summer, said Police Chief Chris Mattei said it's illegal to chalk tires.
Selectmen told the Sun they don't plan to make paid parking a warrant article at town meeting but will make the decision themselves.